Want to balance hormones and manage stress, and at the same time promote beautiful, healthy hair? The following herbs have been found to improve the health of hair: Ashwagandha, Nettle, Saw Palmetto and Fo-Ti. It is also importance to check your B vitamins, Zinc, Iron, Thyroid, Heavy Metals and Vitamin D levels with your health care provider, as these vitamins are crucial for supporting overall health and beautiful hair, skin and nails. You may find all of these herbs and vitamins at your local health food store, however it is important to look for certified organic brands as this ensures the herbs/vitamins are free from pesticides, chemicals and harmful fillers. And just like any new food, tea or product, start with one at a time and make sure it works well for your body. Finally, if you are on any type of medication or pregnant, please consult with your doctor before using these herbs.
Since ancient times, Ashwagandha has been used for a wide variety of conditions. Ashwaganda (withania somnifera), according to Ayurvedic healing, is considered a “grounding” herb. It is specifically known to nourish the body, regulate metabolic processes and stabilize mood. Even more, it is considered one of the most powerful adaptogen herbs in Ayurvedic healing–traditional Indian medicine. Unlike ginseng, ashwagandha is not stimulating, but it is instead relaxing, making it superb for stress relief. This amazing herb can also reduce anxiety and depression, combat the effects of stress, increase stamina and endurance, lower cortisol & bad cholesterol, reduce brain damage, stabilize blood sugar, boost immunity, treat adrenal fatigue and improve the thyroid. Moreover, it offers anti-inflammatory benefits and enhances sexual potency & fertility for men and women. You may drink ashwagandha as a tea or supplement. Do not take with an SSRI (anti-depressant) or anxiety medication.
Nettle is valuable to the body in times of stress as it supports the adrenals glands. The adrenal glands are responsible for releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into the body to signal the fight or flight response. However, if ongoing stress is unchecked, the excess stress hormones circulating in the body will create an imbalance that could result in issues such as adrenal fatigue and/or hair loss. Nettle alleviates these issues by restoring our adrenal glands to balance. Moreover, nettle has the ability to remove excess estrogen (due to environmental pollution) from the body, provide important minerals like silica for bone and hair strength and it even offers anti-inflammatory properties important for pain management. When in doubt, choose nettle.
This Chinese herb contains an alkaloid that has “rejuvenating effects on the nerves, brain cells and endocrine glands.” Not only this, but Chinese legend believes Fo-Ti may actually restore the original color to grey hair because of its anti-aging properties. This may be due to the fact that Fo-ti stimulates a portion of the adrenal gland and detoxifies the body at the same time. Another reason why Fo-ti is excellent for hair health is due to its high levels of iron and zinc, both of which are important for productive hair growth. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, iron and zinc levels are often times low. Overall, Fo-ti is known for aiding hair health, anti-aging, energy and balancing the hormones.
This herb also has a beneficial impact on hormone health and therefore has been found to stimulate hair growth. And just like many of the herbs that support hormone health, saw palmetto has the capacity to improve the immune system, increase sexual libido and protect against cancer. This herb is typically used with men who suffer with prostate issues, but can be equally helpful for both men and women who show the signs of pattern baldness and high levels of testosterone. More specifically, saw palmetto has the capacity to block Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which contributes to the thinning of hair or baldness. Additionally, saw palmetto can help reduce the excessive growth of facial or body hair, know as hirsutism, which can occur in women and is associated with PCOS-polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Other Supplements to Consider…
According to Dr. Axe, zinc is an important vitamin for supporting the immune system as well as hormone balance in men and women. In fact, zinc acts as an antioxidant in the body, which helps to maintain healthy cells and decreases ones risk for disease. The University of Michigan studied 50 adults who supplemented with zinc and found their markers for oxidative stress to be lower than the placebo. Additionally, those who supplemented had a lower risk of illness and infection. Moreover, low zinc levels have been found to increase ones risk of adrenal fatigue and exhaustion, both of which can lead to nutrient deficiency and in effect hair loss. But, don’t guess, test with HTMA! Vegan and vegetarians are at a greater risk for zinc deficiency, as zinc is readily found in meat and dairy. Food sources of zinc include: cashews, pumpkins seeds, chicken liver, garbanzo beans, lamb and grass-fed beef.
Vitamin B complex consists of eight different vitamins, all of which are very important to the body, especially in times of stress. Interestingly, B vitamins are critical for brain and nerve function and Dr. Joan Mathews Larson has found being deficient in vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and folate are all directly connected to depression. For vegetarians and vegans, B12 is more difficult to obtain, so supplementation is advised. Moreover, B vitamin rich foods help to produce energy, support adrenal health and contribute to beautiful hair, skin and nails. Symptoms of vitamin B deficiency include memory loss, depression, heart disease, anemia, birth defects, fatigue, cracked lips, chest pains, sleep disorders and headaches. Food sources of B vitamins include: chicken, turkey, leafy greens, broccoli, lentils, almonds, spirulina, oats, asparagus, potatoes, mushrooms and beans.
Vitamin is D is actually considered to be a hormone that the body makes by the action of sunlight on the skin. However, with the decrease in the amount of time we spend outdoors, due to our office-style jobs, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of Vitamin D deficiencies in the U.S. Theories have proposed the decreased conversion in the body could be connected to estrogen and magnesium deficiency (both are important to hair) as well as the lack of the trace mineral Boron, which plays a role in conversion. Therefore, having enough trace minerals in the body to support vitamins like D are extremely important. The sun is one of the best forms of Vitamin D and 15-20 minutes of sunlight a day is recommended. Food sources of vitamin D include: cod liver oil, wild sardines and salmon, egg yolks, butter, pastured beef (beef liver), leafy greens and Swiss cheese. Animal forms are best as they are already synthesized and converted.
Ayurvedic Practice for Hair Growth
One of the best practices to stimulate hair growth is scalp massage. This ancient ayurvedic practice from India has been found to stimulate the hair follicles and promote stronger, thicker and rapid hair growth. A combination of oils like jojoba and sesame along with therapeutic essential oils of lavender, rosemary, tea tree or peppermint have proved to be beneficial for overall scalp and hair health. By massaging the head with essential oils, you are stimulating the circulation of your scalp, creating more blood flow to the area and thereby encouraging new hair to grow. For even more boost, you may hang your head upside down at the same time you massage to promote even more blood flow to the scalp. By doing a scalp massage 3-4 times per week, you will find your hair to be healthier and growing quicker than ever before.
I hope this information is helpful to you in your health journey. *Make sure to consult with your doctor or health care professional before supplementing, especially if on any medications or pregnant.
In divine health.
Karta, P., Singh, K., & Tierra, M. (2008). The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press
“7 Impressive Benefits of Saw Palmetto.” https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/saw-palmetto.html
Herb Wisdom. “Fo-ti Root Benefits and Information” http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-fo-ti-root.html
Superfood Evolution. “Fo ti Root, He Shou Wu Benefits as a Tonic Herb.” http://www.superfoods-for-superhealth.com/fo-ti-root.html
“10 Powerful Zinc Benefits, Including Fighting Cancer.” https://draxe.com/zinc-benefits/
Murray, M. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. NY: Atria Books
Vitamin D Council. (2003). What is Vitamin D? Retrieved from https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/what-is-vitamin-d/
Hollis, Bruce W., & Wagner, Carol L., (2006) CMAJ. Nutritional Vitamin D. Retrieved from http://www.cmaj.ca/content/174/9/1287.figures-only